to understanding your plant’s needs. If you don’t know,err on the side of less rather than more nutrients, andwatch plants closely throughout the growing season forsigns of deficiency. Nutrient-deficient plants maydevelop yellow or discolored foliage. If this happens,simply add organic matter or a controlled-release type of complete fertilizer around the root zone, water inthoroughly, and watch for improvement.Other factors may affect the availability ormovement of nutrients through the soil. Plants in sandysoils may need more frequent fertilization than plants inloamy or clay soils. Soils that are alkaline (high pH) maybind essential nutrients and make them unavailable. Asoil test will provide this information and makerecommendations for amending the soil. An alternativeto soil amendment is to choose plants that are adapted tothese conditions. Utah soils are often alkaline, andtextures can range from rocky or sandy to silty loam orclay. Fortunately, plants native to our region haveadapted to these conditions, and you can choose from avariety of native plants to fill almost any microclimate inyour landscape. The key is to learn as much as you canabout your yard and your plants. Paying attention to theneeds of your landscape plants will make you a moresuccessful gardener.
Controlling Plant Growth
Periodically, you will need to control the growthof your landscape plants by pruning, pinching ordeadheading, and dividing. These activities will maintainyour plants’ health and appearance by removing dead orundesirable growth, and by stimulating, reinvigorating,or re-directing their growth. Remember that providingonly the amount of water or fertilizer plants need tomaintain their health and vigor means less time spentcontrolling unruly growth. Some locally adapted nativeplants may quickly grow out of their space whenprovided with the relatively abundant resources availablein a managed landscape. An example is
(Matchbrush). Withholding water or nutrientswill keep growth of this species in check.
. Pruning is a way to control growth ontrees and shrubs. Many forms of pruning exist, and thekind of cut you make depends upon the desired resultand the growth habit of the plant. For example, mostdeciduous shrubs (shrubs that drop their leaves in fall)benefit from
cuts that open up their canopy andeliminate old or competing stems. Thinning cuts aremade by cutting a branch back to its point of origin. Thepoint of origin could be another branch or the maintrunk, or it could be near the ground. Thinning can beused to shape or direct growth, but most often it is usedto reduce bulk and restore the natural structure of theplant. A
cut is more severe than a thinning cut,and removes part of a branch leaving a short stubabove a bud. This type of cut stimulates a profusion of twiggy growth from a lateral bud just below the cut. It isused to stimulate new growth from a lateral bud to fill ina gap in the canopy, or to increase flower production insome shrubs. Sometimes it is mistakenly used when athinning cut would have been a better choice. Overuse of heading cuts can ruin the natural shape of a tree or shrub.
is the most severe type of heading cutand involves cutting a plant’s outer foliage to create aneven surface. Only certain trees and shrubs will benefitfrom this type of cut. Shearing can be used to create ahedge or screen with closely spaced plants. Some woodyplants can be treated like herbaceous perennials andsheared almost to the ground to control their growth orto restore them to a more natural shape (see insert). Mostpruning should be done in late winter or early springbefore spring growth begins. For plants that flower onlast year’s growth, prune after flowering. With only afew exceptions, most native conifers require no pruning.For example, junipers are highly valued for their naturalshape. Junipers that have outgrown their space should beremoved rather than pruned. (For more information onpruning trees, see the following extension bulletin:http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/NR_FF_004.pdf.
)Management of dead plant material.
Thebloom time of some annuals and herbaceous perennialscan be extended by removing flowers as soon as theystart to decline. This is called
, and someplants can be stimulated to repeat bloom when youremove the spent flowers. In the case of plants with aflower on a single stem, cut back the entire stem to avoida gangly, headless stem. If you don’t deadhead plantsthat repeat bloom, the plant will set seed, signaling theend of flower production for the season.
plant with flowers and seed heads